Category Archives: Linda Cole

Working Cats Program – Putting Feral Cats to Work

By Linda Cole

Feral cat colonies are made up of cats that were born in the wild as well as lost or stray felines who find their way into a colony. Some of the cats are friendly, some are semi-feral, and some are feral with a distrust of humans. These kitties are accustomed to life on the streets, but it’s a challenge for them to find adequate food, water and shelter. Kindhearted humans who tend to colonies try to provide the necessities of life to a population of cats that lives in the shadows. An animal rescue and advocacy group has found a way to help feral cats and give them a chance for a home with The Working Cats Program.

The Voice for the Animals Foundation (VFTA) is a non-profit 501c3 organization in the San Francisco, California area. Their mission is to “create respect and empathy for animals through education, rescue, legislation and advocacy.” Melya Kaplan founded the VFTA in 1999 after witnessing far too many homeless cats and dogs wandering the streets of Venice. It motivated her to create a different kind of animal protection organization, one that helps feral cats find safe surroundings while also providing an important service to the community.
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The Benefits of Doggles for Dogs

By Linda Cole

You don’t have to look far to see a dog wearing their own shades. Doggles have been around since the early 2000s, and have a function besides making a dog look cool. When these doggie goggles were first invented, they were number six on a list of the most useless inventions. But since then, veterinarians, the military, police departments, search and rescue, hunters and other dog owners have discovered a variety of reasons for putting a pair of Doggles on their dog.

How Doggles Came to Be

The idea for dog goggles wasn’t on the mind of Roni and Ken Di Lullo until one day in 1997 when their Border Collie, Midnight, kept missing the Frisbee they were playing fetch with. He was squinting a lot, and Roni thought it was because his eyes were sensitive to the sunlight. With nothing available on the market, she decided to try to customize a pair of sports goggles to fit Midnight, and it worked. His Frisbee catching improved, and other dog owners at the dog park were amused when they saw him wearing his goggles.

People began to stop and ask about the specialized goggles, mainly because they looked so cute on Midnight. Roni started to get requests from other dog owners asking if she could customize sports goggles for their dogs. The big problem with using the sports goggles was that they didn’t fit right. So Roni and Ken consulted with eyewear manufacturers to find one that could develop the goggles into glasses that would fit canines correctly.

Do Doggles Help Dogs?

Doggles are much more than just a fashion statement, although they do make dogs look pretty hip. The shades are actual eyewear protection, and can help dogs with eye conditions that make them sensitive to sunlight. Pannus is a progressive eye inflammation that affects the cornea. It’s mainly seen in middle aged German Shepherds, but Border Collies, Labrador Retrievers, Greyhounds and long haired Dachshunds can also be affected by this condition. It is found in other breeds as well, but it’s not as common.

This eye condition is seen more in the Rocky Mountain states and the desert southwest. The cause isn’t known, but exposure to ultraviolet light increases the severity. Because Doggles have tinted lens, they can reduce UV light and offer sun protection to dogs affected by Pannus, dry eyes, light sensitivity and other eye conditions. Prescription lenses can be customized for dogs that have undergone cataract surgery or have failing eyesight.

Doggles Design

The dog goggles are flexible and foam padded to fit snuggly against the dog’s face. The lenses are shatterproof and anti-fog, and adjustable head and chin straps keep the Doggles in place. Dogs who love to play on the beach can have relief from blowing sand along with protection from the sun’s rays, and the goggles provide eye protection for dogs riding in cars with the windows down.

The U.S. military uses Doggles to protect the eyes of their four legged K9 bomb sniffing units. The goggles protect the dogs’ eyes from flying debris, shrapnel, wind, sand, small rocks, bugs and dust. Navy Seals train dogs to jump from helicopters and airplanes; they fit their canines with Doggles for eye protection during jumps.

You may not know who Cairo is, but he is the dog that went on the mission with the famous Navy Seal Team Six. This Belgian Malinois helped secure the perimeter of Osama bin Laden’s house, and made sure there were no bombs inside the Pakistan compound. He wore specialized Doggles equipped with night vision and infrared capability that would make it possible for him to see human body heat through concrete walls.

Search and rescue dogs and police dogs are also fitted with Doggles for eye protection. The dog goggles can help protect the eyes of hunting dogs from twigs and other debris, too.

There’s no question that Doggles have evolved since their inception. When military dog handlers in Iraq and Afghanistan were asked to name things they wanted or needed, Doggles were one of the most requested items.

The goggles are sold worldwide, and millions of dogs are getting eye protection from the sun and wind while looking stylish at the same time.

Top photo by Spc. Daniel Bear
Middle photo by Sgt. Jason Brace
Bottom photo by Kathleen Tyler Conklin

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Black Russian Terrier: The Black Pearl of Russia

By Linda Cole

The Black Russian Terrier is one of the world’s youngest breeds, created in the 1940s. Nicknamed the Blackie, BRT and the Black Pearl of Russia, this breed was developed to fulfill a specific need for Russia and her people at a time of rebirth and reinvention. Because the history of the breed is relatively new, how it was created is well documented.

World War I and II had a direct impact on European countries that sustained major damage to the people, environment, wildlife and domesticated animals. Many purebred dog breeds were reduced to very low numbers and were only able to recover when breeders searched out quality dogs to use in rebuilding programs after WW II.

Periods of distemper outbreaks took its toll on dog breeds. Russia also had to deal with the Revolution in 1917-1918 and economic issues. All of these events caused many purebred dogs in Russia to suffer immense losses, and many breeds in this country were on the verge of becoming extinct. But there was a need for working dogs, so a breeding program was developed to create a breed from the few purebred dogs left in the country, and from imports of other breeds.

The program was established at the Red Star Kennel in the 1930s. Colonel G. Medvedev of the Central Military School of Working Dogs was given the task of developing a working dog that would meet the needs of the military. His team included breeders and geneticists. Their goal was to create a working dog that was powerful, intelligent and adaptable to the harsh Russian winters.

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How Elvis the Beagle is Helping to Save Polar Bears

By Linda Cole

I love reading stories highlighting the exceptional abilities of dogs, especially when it comes to using their extraordinary sense of smell in wildlife conservation. When a dog’s nose is used to aid endangered or threatened apex predators, that helps preserve the natural balance in an ecosystem. Researchers have discovered that the super nose of a two year old Beagle named Elvis can help scientists better understand the polar bear reproductive cycle.

The idea of training a dog to detect if a polar bear is pregnant began with one of the scientists at the Cincinnati Zoo’s Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW), after he read about studies using dogs to sniff out cancer. No one knew if using a canine to detect polar bear pregnancies was possible, but it was worth trying because of the difficulty zoo keepers had confirming it on their own.

Polar bears are listed on the Endangered Species list as threatened because of loss of habitat and climate change. If a bear is suspected of being pregnant, zoo officials begin to prepare for the birthing process whether she’s pregnant or not. They want to do everything they can towards the survival and care of cubs born at their facilities. Males need to be separated from the female, dens need to be prepared with proper bedding, video cameras are set up to monitor what’s going on, and staff and volunteers are needed around the clock. Few cubs are born to polar bears living in zoos, and many cubs born in the wild don’t survive.

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Choosing a Dog Breeder: What You Need to Know

By Linda Cole

Most of my dogs from the past and present have been rescued, but I did have two Siberian Huskies and three American Eskimos that came from breeders. We all have personal reasons for choosing a pet from a breeder or a shelter. If you do decide to go with a dog breeder, there are some things you need to know – beginning with picking a breeder that’s reputable. Asking the right questions and knowing how a credible breeder should interact with you, helps you make a wise choice.

Good breeders are associated with local and national breed clubs, and kennel clubs like the AKC or UKC. They know their dogs well, and their objective is to constantly improve on the breed(s) they raise. Only healthy dogs are mated, and kennels, exercise areas, yards and homes are clean. All of the dogs are clean and well cared for, and their kennels are not overcrowded. Their dogs are family pets first, and many breeders enter them in dog shows, hunting, herding or Earthdog trials and other activities.

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Common Behavior Issues in Aging Dogs

By Linda Cole

One thing no scientist has been able to do is slow down the hands of time. Like us, as dogs grow older they can start to experience the effects of an aging body and mind. Steps may be harder to go up and down. Hearing isn’t as sharp as when your dog was younger, and he might have a harder time “holding it” in between trips outside. We can’t stop the aging process, but we can recognize and understand difficulties that cause some common behavior issues in senior dogs. Canines are adaptable, and they usually handle getting older better than most humans.

Hearing Difficulties

When it comes to a dog’s senses, hearing loss – partial or complete – is the most common loss. If your older dog doesn’t respond when you talk to him, it’s possible he can’t hear you. As canines age, high pitched sounds are harder to hear. Women generally have a higher pitched voice, and praise is given in a happy, higher pitched tone. It might be necessary to lower the tone to help your pet hear you.

Just because he’s watching you as you talk to him, doesn’t mean he hears you, and most dogs aren’t lip readers. Not coming when called or ignoring a command, even when he’s watching you, is a good indication of hearing loss.

If you used hand signals along with commands when you trained your dog, it’s a huge advantage when he gets older and loses his hearing. But if you didn’t, you can still teach him hand signals or use other ways to get his attention to help him understand what you want.

Use a flashlight or laser pointer to get his attention, but remember to never shine a laser light directly into his eyes to prevent damage to the eyes. You can turn on an outside light and flash it to send a signal when it’s time to come inside. Reward him with CANIDAE Pure Heaven treats so he can learn what the light means.

Never stop talking to your pet, even if he has complete hearing loss. His hearing may be gone, but he still enjoys the time you spend with him when talking to him.

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